A hypothetical Steve Jobs

Like the rest of the technology world, I am mourning the loss of Steve Jobs two weeks ago. Steve Jobs had an extraordinary understanding of the human side of technology, and courageously believed that technology should not only be useful but enjoyable—that it should make an emotional connection. He revolutionized the computer, music, and cell phone industries by doing a few things extremely well, keeping things simple and delightful, and waiting to release products until the technology was ready instead of merely possible. He led an extraordinary life and founded an extraordinary company.

To get an idea of how extraordinary, I’ve been asking myself some hypothetical questions. What if the circumstances where different? What if the real Steve Jobs:

  1. Had graduated from college?
  2. Had not been fired from Apple?
  3. Had not started Next?
  4. Had not bought Pixar?

Would Apple’s results be the same? Better? Worse?

To raise this thought experiment a notch, suppose Steve Jobs’ doppelganger (a different person with similar skills, philosophy, personality, and temperament—let’s call him SJ2) were to land a job in the following circumstances:

  1. A brash, young SJ2 at Jobs’ first Apple (pre 1985)
  2. A brash, young SJ2 at Scully’s Apple (1985 – 1997)
  3. A brash, young SJ2 at Jobs’ second Apple (post 1997)
  4. A brash, young SJ2 at Gates’ Microsoft (pre 2000)
  5. A brash, young SJ2 at Ballmer’s Microsoft (post 2000)
  6. An older, experienced SJ2 at Ballmer’s Microsoft (post 2000)

How would this person’s career go?

Of course, this is crazy hypothetical so there are no right or wrong answers. Please share your thoughts in the comments and compare your answers to mine.

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